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Abbott expects there to be college football this fall

Pretty optimistic, if you ask me.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he believes college football will begin on schedule in Texas with some fans in the stands, he told KXAN during an interview Friday.

“My prediction is yes we’re going to have college football beginning as scheduled, on schedule, with at least some level of fans in the stands,” the governor said.

Abbott said what is unclear at the moment is what the capacity level would be.

“Would it be strategic and limited to ensure that we have safe distancing practices, there are factors we simply do not know at this time,” Abbott explained about the potential health risks of reopening UT football in the fall.

Abbott stated that the University of Texas at Austin’s athletic director needs a decision by early August. He said the state thinks it should be able to make a decision by then.

This isn’t out of the blue. In April, the chancellors of Texas A&M and Texas Tech said they expect there will be football when they reopen in the fall, though that story didn’t address the question of fans. ESPN quoted Abbott referring to the reopening plans of MLB and the NBA, though those sports and others like MLS are all talking about fan-free games, possibly at a single location. It’s one thing to imagine the games happening, especially if the campuses are open anyway. It’s another to imagine sixty thousand people or more packed into a stadium screaming their lungs out, especially if the pro sports leagues are still playing before nothing but empty seats. Texas A&M at least is thinking about what this might mean.

“We have not gone down the path of examining every section,” A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said of exactly how many fans Kyle Field will hold with mandated social distancing in place. “There are a lot of scenarios being discussed.”

Like that proverbial glass, Bjork prefers to envision a stadium as half full, not half empty, should restrictions be in place this season.

“We want a full experience, and we’re staying positive — that’s the approach we’re taking right now,” Bjork said. “We know we can pivot quickly if we have to, but we have not mapped that out.”

[…]

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has gradually reopened the state in the past month, but he has held off on potentially crowded events such as county fairs. With that in mind, what exactly would Kyle Field look like at, say, 25 percent capacity?

Roughly 25,000 fans would be spread throughout the stadium, and which fans would be allowed in would be determined in a potentially convoluted process.

“You’ve got 102,733 seats,” Bjork said. “Last year we sold about 85,000 season tickets, including right around 35,000 student tickets. That leaves you about 18,000 empty seats. The great thing about Kyle Field is we have a lot of space. So you would start with your infrastructure and analyze it from there, but we would not (ideally) want to decrease our season ticket base. …

“We have a huge footprint, and we just haven’t had to go down that (downsizing) path yet.”

Should social distancing be required at Kyle Field this fall, not only would fans be spaced at least 6 feet apart throughout the stadium, but multiple measures would be in place to try to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

That might mean everyone but the players and those on the sideline would be required to wear masks (further muffling touchdown celebrations and the Aggies’ tradition of kissing after a score); an abundance of hand sanitizers spread throughout the stadium; and scheduled times for different sections to enter the stadium so there is no squeeze at the gates, where body temperatures might also be checked.

Bjork added that it might be helpful for fans to bring their own beverage containers to limit the number of hands on a cup, making last year’s new policy of selling alcohol throughout the stadium a bit trickier. A&M and its concessions cohort made more than $1 million off alcohol sales at Kyle Field in 2019, according to the university.

“One of the things that we’ve had to do with the alcohol policy is have (employees) pour the bottle or can of beer into a cup (for fans); that’s an SEC policy,” Bjork said. “Does that need to change so you limit as many contacts as possible? Those approaches are being studied right now.”

So are the possibilities of limiting the university-sanctioned tailgating scene around Kyle Field, and the myriad activities in the Aggie Fan Zone on the plaza north of the stadium that create a festival-like atmosphere in the hours before kickoff.

“There’s nothing you can really put in writing right now or have a ‘backup’ plan yet, because there’s too much uncertainty, and it’s way too early,” Bjork said of the Aggies’ plans for Kyle Field starting with the Sept. 5 opener against Abilene Christian.

Which fans would get to attend would also present a knotty question for them. I do expect there to be a lot of pressure for playing college football, for various financial and social reasons. How that manifests remains an open question, and that’s before we take into account the possibility of a resurgence, in which case all of this will seem extremely stupid.

This is an issue that has more than the usual amount of resonance for me. As you know if you’ve been reading this site for awhile or know me in Real Life, I’ve been a member of the Rice Marching Owl Band (MOB) for many years. I don’t know at this point what Rice plans to go regarding its sports teams, nor do I know at this point what the MOB plans to do. (They’ve been busy with the usual end-of-semester activities, saying goodbye to graduating seniors and installing the new drum major and drum minor, that sort of thing.) I really don’t know what I plan to do just yet if everyone is going ahead like normal. On the one hand, we’ll be outside and there will be a reasonable amount of space for us all in the stands. On the other hand, there’s only so much social distancing a band can do and still sound like a band, the deep breathing that playing a wind instrument requires is an extra risk factor for COVID transmission, and everything else about the stadium experience will involve a lot of closer-than-I’m-comfortable-with contact with other people. Maybe if we’ve really got infection rates under control, or there’s true universal testing, I’d be willing to trot out there for another season like it was the Before Times. I’m not feeling that right now. Ask me again in August and we’ll see. The Chron has more.

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23 Comments

  1. Flypusher says:

    The lack of band practice/performances is a major bummer. I plan to test out the Acapella ap this summer, which I expect will be better than just practicing alone, but a pale reflection of the real thing.

  2. Joel says:

    This might be a good time for a college football fan – especially one not of college age – to reflect on just how much human suffering (coronavirus, cte, economic exploitation), one is willing to inflict for one’s own nostalgic enjoyment.

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    Universities may be changed greatly by this, which, according to some, is simply an acceleration of what was already happening. This was an interesting video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3i4uMc2X0k&feature=youtu.be

  4. C.L. says:

    College should be for higher learning, not as a farm team system for the NBA or NFL.

  5. Brad says:

    Abbott is just expressing what is popular to fans/voters, without having to ultimately make the unpopular decision.

    Kind of like when Perry said A&M should have the bonfire on campus again.

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    @ Brad:

    I hated Rick Perry. Hated him. But he was correct about the bonfire. The best way to honor the dead from that horrific log collapse, is to return the tradition to campus. And yes, doing the bonfires again would also be popular with Aggie alumni. Are you telling me you’re against it, mainly because it was Rick Perry that supported it? If Rick Perry supported puppies and kittens, you’d be against puppies and kittens? That’s a real cut your nose off to spite your face attitude.

  7. Joel says:

    i will never forget my experience having drunken a&m students pissing on the backs of my legs during one of our annual visits to the aggie bonfire when i was a child.

  8. Ross says:

    @Bill, my colleague who had friends die in the collapse is utterly against a revival of the bonfire. As are most of his classmates. Bringing back the bonfire might be popular with certain alumni, but it would be a kick in the face to the people that were there.

  9. Jules says:

    “Are you telling me you’re against it, mainly because it was Rick Perry that supported it? If Rick Perry supported puppies and kittens, you’d be against puppies and kittens? That’s a real cut your nose off to spite your face attitude.”

    Brilliant argument, simply brilliant. You have surpassed yourself, Bill, no need to ever post again. You will never top this superb thinking and wit. Brad will have no answer for this! Go, Bill, go, knowing your work here is done.

    Bravo and bon voyage.

  10. Brad says:

    Bill, I’m gonna give you the benefit of the doubt. I should clarify my statement that Perry discussed having it come back in somewhat its original form.

    I am not for abject stupidity of A&M students building a 800 ton bonfire from a napkin diagram with no engineering.

    I am a UT alumni and I do not want my beautiful Aggie friends losing their lives or their children’s lives.

  11. Bill Daniels says:

    Brad,

    I could agree with more safety oversight in exchange for bringing back the bonfire. Rare moment of agreement here. We all love giving Aggies a little gentle ribbing, but there are plenty of great people who have graduated, and will graduate from A&M. Personally, when I was a student decades ago and we’d road trip to A&M for games, we always got a very warm reception. The A&M tradition embodies “Texas friendly.’

  12. Paul Kubosh says:

    You might find this surprising but I want football. I am pretty sure all of you progressives never played because it is such a violent sport.

    🙂

    LOL

  13. Manny says:

    Paul you are full of it, not only did I play football my favorite pass time was boxing.

    Never did answer the question you stated what you are not, but what are you Paul?

  14. voter_worker says:

    This Bonfire discussion is interesting. I helped build one in the role of log-hauler and overnight guard duty .. It was a risky, dangerous enterprise. At the time, I dramatically compared what I was experiencing to what the slaves of Egypt must have endured while building the Pyramids. The way of thinking that supported this is no more. The Bonfire now admirably fulfils its role as a pillar of the mythical lore of the institution without needing to be physically present, and that’s how it will remain. .

  15. C.L. says:

    Paul, I could not care any less than I already do about football not because of any political leanings I may have, but because I have better things to do than watch 11-12 minutes of actual football action taking place over a four hour span.

    The WSJ actually timed it out over the course of a season. Here’s a link to said article not behind a WSJ paywall:

    https://qz.com/150577/an-average-nfl-game-more-than-100-commercials-and-just-11-minutes-of-play/

  16. C.L. point made. Glad you agree. Peace, roses, and joints to all.

  17. Paul Kubosh says:

    One more thing about football. Alpha males play football and beta males play something else.

  18. Jules says:

    Paul, yes, we got what you were implying, where did you play?

  19. C.L. says:

    I may actually care less about where Paul went to school or what he meant by alpha males and beta males than I do about the actual game of football.

  20. I knew that would stir some of you up. Boling High School Boling Texas. Our claim to fame Billy Waddy was our Star Quaterback that won the 1972 AA Championship. Obviously I was a lineman in 83 and 84 season. Since you asked.

  21. Mark says:

    Alpha males play football and beta males play something else

    LOL. If you believe in the “alpha male” concept and accept that humans are just brainless beasts, it is also my understanding that alpha males don’t have to point out or talk about how they are alpha males

  22. Paul Kubosh says:

    I knew you guys wouldn’t like the talk about Alpha males. What if I self identify as an alpha male?

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